Entrepreneurs: Remember That It's Not Personal, It's Strictly Business
Entrepreneurship is a deeply personalendeavor that requires dedication, discipline, and passion. For most founders, myself included, there is virtually no separation between the personal and professional.
For me, BodeTree’s successes are my successes, and its failures are my failures. When someone attacks my company, I can’t help but take it personally. Unfortunately, this lack of separation between my personal and professional lives has taken its toll.
Looking back, I can see how my tendency to take things personally has clouded my judgment, led to disappointment and prevented me from taking decisive action when needed. While it’s impossible for truly committed entrepreneurs to maintain the same kind of work/life separation that traditional employees enjoy, it is possible to find balance.
There are certain aspects of the entrepreneurial journey that are touchier than others, at least in my case. Identifying these areas and understanding the lessons contained therein is the only way to find the balance that is so vital to success.
Lesson #1: No one will care about your idea as much as you do
When you start a business (or experience any act of creation for that matter), it is easy to become enamored with your ideas. It takes passion and an almost maniacal devotion to get a venture off the ground. Sometimes, however, this passion gets the best of us, and we simply cannot understand how or why others wouldn’t be equally excited.
Here’s the thing: Nobody cares about your ideas as much as you do. It’s a simple fact. When you’re met by prospective clients, investors, family, and even employees who don’t seem to care as deeply about what you’ve built don’t take it personally. Their actions aren’t meant to demean your creation. They simply lack the emotional connection that you’ve built with your business.
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to figure out how to get others to buy into your vision and share your excitement. Interpreting lukewarm or even negative feedback as some statement on your self-worth is easy, but misguided. Instead, use it as an opportunity for growth, and invest in refining your product and your pitch.
Lesson #2: Keep moving forward, one inch at a time
I’ve written before about how a business in motion tends to stay in motion and that assumption holds true throughout the entrepreneurial journey. But to be fair, some days are just harder than others to keep moving forward. The sales pipeline may slow, an unexpected issue from a vendor pushes out a deadline, or a key contact just took a two-week vacation overseas, as an entrepreneur you’ll certainly see it all.
Peaks and valleys are an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. What is most important, however, is taking steps forward, everyday, no matter how difficult that may be, because even the smallest step forward makes a difference.
I’ve learned in my six years of running BodeTree, that you tend to remember the highs and lows the most—the signed contracts and crushing defeats always stick out more than the mundane moments in-between. But an invaluable part of the entrepreneurship experience are those in-between days when the real work gets done. Its these days that tend to matter the most because they are the days that you and your team choose to double down and move the company forward, even in the smallest ways.
While your entrepreneurial mind may be ten steps down the road, remember to focus some of that energy on the little steps that will lead you there.
Lesson #3: Your business failures are not your personal failures
This is the most important lesson that any entrepreneur can learn. No matter how hard you try, your best efforts will sometimes result in failure. These failures are not a reflection on your value as a person. Instead, they’re simply part of running a business.
Earlier this year I published my first book. While I knew that it was difficult for first-time authors to gain traction, I assumed that my everyday readers would help to propel my book up the charts. While the book’s performance hasn’t been awful, it has not lived up to my lofty expectations.
My first reaction was to take it somewhat personally. Maybe it wasn’t as interesting to people as I thought it would be. Perhaps I wasn’t as good of a writer as I hoped. Then, after I regained my senses, I realized that it had nothing to do with these things. Publishing a book is hard; marketing a book is harder.
My book wasn’t a personal failure. Instead, it was an opportunity to learn. I tried something, and it didn’t work out as well as I hoped. Next time, I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from the experience and hopefully do better.
Remember, the entrepreneurial journey isn’t about you; it’s about building something greater than the sum of its parts. Entrepreneurs who take everything personally will fail. Sure, their businesses might grow, and they might make money, but they’ll be miserable.
Instead, I encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to understand the trigger points in their work life, break them down, and learn from them. After doing so, you’ll come to find that it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.